Joy came into the world suddenly.
There was a bit of an argument: go back into the house or get to the car and, with any luck, make it to Topeka? Mom wanted the house. Dad wanted Topeka. In the end, little Joy made the call.
Elizabeth Keil gave birth to a 9-pound, 2-ounce girl at about 4:45 a.m. Thursday. That’s the time she guessed for the records because, in her words, parking lots don’t have clocks.
Joy, you see, came into the world not in a Topeka birthing center or in the Keils’ on-campus home at Stouffer Place apartments, but in the parking lot outside.
Their friend Sommer Amundsen was there, on call to help watch their 20-month-old son, James. But nobody expected the new baby’s joyous, serendipitous, speedy arrival.
“Elizabeth said ‘catch her’ so we caught her!” Amundsen said. “We didn’t have an option.”
But there had been some debate. After about an hour of contractions, Elizabeth and her husband, Benjamin Keil, were initially determined to make it to the birthing center where, after 12 full hours of labor, James was born. But Elizabeth says she knew she wouldn’t make it. Before even making it to the car, Benjamin and Sommer delivered Joy.
“The scariest moment was after we caught her but before she let out her first little wail,” he said. “It was probably all of two seconds, but after that it was just an amazing experience.”
Elizabeth named her Joy after what she hopes she’ll be to all the lives she touches. Amundsen got towels and made sure mother and daughter were breathing and not bleeding. And a calm came over the family.
“She was breathing, crying, she was OK, and so, so was I,” Elizabeth said.
Benjamin, a doctoral student at Kansas University, called 911. Medical first responders came and transported Elizabeth and Joy to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where they stayed until Thursday afternoon, blessed, they say, to have no complications.
Joy, for all the fuss, was actually nine days late. But “once she decided to come, it had to be then,” Elizabeth said as she wondered whether the dramatic entry will affect Joy’s personality down the road.
In the meantime, big brother James is thrilled with the new arrival, too, walking around the Keils’ apartment saying “baby” while snacking on grapes. The Keils want to have more kids — a big family, Benjamin said. But they do have a small caveat: “Just please not — we’d rather not actually have them in a parking lot,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.